What if somebody had the power to enter your dreams and free you of your recurring nightmare? That’s the intriguing premise of The Nightmare Dreamer, which is playing at The Blue Elephant Theatre in Camberwell until 29th June and closing out their summer season.
It’s a devised piece, built around improvisations with the cast, and this proves both its strength and weakness.
Visually, The Nightmare Dreamer is arresting. Stark, bold imagery and a recurrence of the colour red bleeding into dreams is highly effective, and a nightmarish, dream-like atmosphere is created and sustained. Evocative lighting and sound (Karl Oskar Sørdal and Jon McLeod) add hugely to the impact of the piece too; with the warm red lighting of dreams reinforcing the visuals; and eerie soundscapes capturing something of the illogic of the unconscious state.
The production suffers without the focus and nuance of a writer. Much of the dialogue is on-the-nose and expositional, and the plot is repetitive. Arguably there are too many characters, and too many sufferers for the nightmare dreamer to visit before his inevitable crisis.
Within the constraints of a devised piece, an interesting story world is at least created. Txema Perez as the man capable of entering the dreams of others is especially captivating. His deceptively minimalist performance is both warm and convincing, and astutely judged for the intimacy of the Blue Elephant’s auditorium. The adaptable Fleur Poad is also impressive as a range of characters.
With a nightmarish and unsettling quality, The Nightmare Dreamer will resonate with those with a fascination for the exploration of dreams; and in style and presentation it evokes a graphic novel. It’s by no means a Freudian-style examination of the meaning of dreams, but nor does it set out to be. As a short and stylish devised piece of theatre though, it’s entertaining and sufficiently intriguing to warrant a look.